CRAIG LEWIS analyses some missed opportunities that the Springboks must avoid in the two away Tests against the Wallabies and All Blacks.
Immediately following the Springboks’ surprise loss to Argentina in their last clash, coach Rassie Erasmus repeatedly lamented a number of point-scoring chances that went a begging.
Of course, it’s easier to make judgements in hindsight, but here we take a look at five costly moments in the first half alone where the Boks failed to capitalise on opportunities.
In the first split-screen below, the Boks have an ideal two-on-one opportunity out wide, with Lukhanyo Am initially doing well to draw the defender, but he then almost inexplicably opts against making the pass out wide to speedster Makazole Mapimpi.
The footage shows that Mapimpi had plenty of space to dart away down the touchline, but instead Am is wrapped up in a ball-and-all tackle. To make matters worse, just one phase later the Boks concede a penalty at the breakdown, with Nicolás Sánchez duly converting the first points for the Pumas.
In the next image, the Boks create a superb breakaway and take play from the halfway line to the opposition 22. Again, there is a numbers mismatch. However, Warren Whiteley passes out wide to Aphiwe Dyantyi just a split-second too soon, with sole defender Sánchez doing well to draw the pass from Whiteley without fully committing to the tackle.
As the pass is made, the Argentina flyhalf tracks out to cover Dyantyi, who makes a costly juggle of the ball, which allows yet another split-second for Sánchez to make the covering tackle that forces the Bok winger into touch. This is a fine example of just how small the margins can be between a try and lost opportunity.
It’s something that we also see in the third example below (note how all three opportunities up to this point are within the opening quarter of the game). The first portion of the split-screen shows how Siya Kolisi has made a brilliant break, and then finds support runner André Esterhuizen with a risky, but ultimately effective pass.
Yet, as Esterhuizen goes to ground, he looks to have the intention of keeping the ball alive with a pop pass. In the end, we see a failure to protect possession – along with interference from an Argentina player – as support slowly arrives.
Just a few minutes later, the Boks concede a try, but receive a knock-on advantage after Argentina fail to retain possession from the kickoff. Below, you can see the ball has come back to Handré Pollard, but he will ultimately reverse his decision to pass when he notices a line of Pumas defenders rushing up.
Although the Boks are playing under advantage in a strong field position, Pollard takes the risk of putting boot to ball in the hope of going over the Argentina defence and finding Lionel Mapoe out wide.
The end result, though, sees Pollard overcook the kick as the ball goes into touch, while referee Angus Gardner calls advantage over as soon as the chip is made.
Finally, we look at another soft moment from the Boks. This time on the half-hour mark, Faf de Klerk takes control of possession from the back of a halted lineout drive after the Boks had opted to turn down a shot at goal, with Dyantyi, Pollard and Esterhuizen offering running options.
De Klerk hits Esterhuizen on an angled run, but the big centre fails to hang onto a regulation pass as another prime opportunity in the 22 is lost.
A look back at this game certainly shows how Argentina caused plenty of havoc at the breakdown and regularly flirted with the offsides line on defence, with the officials allowing them to get away with plenty.
However, the Boks will see upon review that they also only have themselves to blame for a number of missed opportunities. And as Erasmus pointed out after the defeat in Mendoza, it’s against teams such as the Wallabies and All Blacks that you have to virtually take every chance that arises in order to have any hope of victory.
Photo: Daniel Jayo/Getty Images